A rainy day and the Nationals rotation
So much rain collected on the field at Space Coast Stadium that, "Viera's got some new lakes," Nationals reliever Jason Bergmann said. So no game today, but the weather couldn't prevent today from being one of the more consequential days of spring, even before the President Obama announcement.
Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman formally announced their first four starters. In order, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Craig Stammen and Livan Hernandez will pitch the regular season's first four games. The competition for the fifth spot will come down to J.D. Martin, Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock, Riggleman said.
Stammen and Hernandez became the first two starters from among the multitude of candidates vying for a starting spot to earn a place in the rotation. Stammen has "out-pitched everybody here except maybe Lannan," Riggleman said. Stammen this spring had a 3.14 ERA in 14 1/3 innings, allowing 14 hits and four walks while striking out 10.
Riggleman did not bother to tell Hernandez, the most veteran among the contenders and the man who threw the first pitch in Nationals history. "He'd probably say, 'No, kidding. Why you telling me now? Was there ever a doubt?' "
Thing is, there was.
"Absolutely," Riggleman said. "You've got five spots for seven or eight people. You could do the math."
Hernandez earned the start by coming into spring training in excellent shape and then performing. He allowed two earned runs in eight innings, allowing six hits and five walks while striking out five.
The Nationals wait until the opening days of the year to choose their last starter. Based on days off, the Nationals will not need a fifth starter until April 11. Until then, they could carry four starters on their roster, allowing them to use an extra reliever or positon player during the first five games.
Hernandez was to pitch today before the rain out, which will not be made up. The Nationals will instead have Hernandez pitch tomorrow in an intrasquad minor league game.
In their regularly scheduled game in Jupiter, Fla., Mock will pitch a game suddenly infused with intense meaning for him. At some point this spring, Riggleman began lumping Mock with Lannan and Marquis as certain starters. Now, though, Mock will still have to earn a spot.
"Stammen and Livo are just throwing better than everybody," Riggleman said. "It's hard to ignore what they're doing."
March 29, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
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